How do we deal with “Cocobeh”- tainted big frogs in our region’s small ponds?

Contribution – Part 19/2017

 

 

The Caribbean’s tainted leadership challenge

 BRADES, Montserrat, July 13, 2017 – One of the old-time Caribbean superstitions is the one about how “frogs” (especially toads) carry “Cocobeh,” leprosy. Many an innocent frog has paid with its life for this myth. And even that crime against ecology is part of how useful “the Cocobeh model” is for understanding and solving the region’s tainted leadership challenge. For our governments, for our businesses, for education, media, even churches, regional/international bodies and sports.

Too many leaders in our region and far beyond seem to be part of a toxic leadership culture of being big frogs in a dirty, tainted pond. They have Cocobeh, they spread it to the pond, they infect those who work with them, they even use it as a weapon, spitting it on those who challenge them. So, Cocobeh is too often deeply embedded in our regional leadership culture. That is, a toxic brew of corruption, deceit, selfish ambition, envy, greed and too often critical gaps in character and capability that predictably turn promising projects into damaging failures. Under these circumstances, just getting into or living near the pond is a hazard, much less having to deal with infected leadership at close hand day by day.

This is a tough challenge, but it is hardly a new one. Nor is it unique to our region. Indeed, our region’s most common history book has in it a key case study from 3,000 years ago. Namely, the transition between the Saul and the David generations. Saul started well, but became tainted and was troubled with depression, jealousy and more. David first came into his life as a young talented musician who could help calm his troubled spirit. Then, one day the lad killed a giant, stirring jealousy as Saul heard the people praise David for a feat he had been too demoralised and tainted to attempt. So, even though David was now his youngest General, son-in-law and even head of his bodyguard, in his fits of rage and envy Saul began to throw javelins at him and to scheme against him. Ironically, the Crown Prince (Jonathan) Saul wanted to promote became David’s close friend and mentor. Eventually, David had to flee for his life, ending up at the cave of Adullam. Then, we read how:

1 Sam 22:2 “ . . . everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul, gathered to [David]. And he became commander over them. And there were with him about four hundred men.”  [ESV]

This seemingly unpromising group became David’s mighty men and the core of the greatest generation of leadership in Israel’s history. They stood with him through thick and thin, even when he had to flee to exile among his enemies. And when Saul and his sons fell in battle at Mount Gilboa in the Jezreel region, they were joined by six hundred Philistines when David first returned to Hebron. (These, brought with them the key breakthrough technology of that day: Iron-making.)

The pattern is clear enough: in and around a tainted pond, genuine breakthrough leadership will always be under attack by javelin throwers and will be spied on and schemed against. Such alternative leaders therefore need to have support teams with a critical mass of capability, and opportunity to grow. Key technologies may be a big part of their secret sauce. They may need to go into exile to come into their full potential. They may need to bring in outside expertise. And, they will need to be purified from the taint of the dirty pond.

Big frogs will know this and they will fight dirty to protect their turf. They will try to lock out promising young people they don’t favour. The tempting offer of tainted funding or the tainted “compromise solution” or the dangerous “promotion” are obvious tricks. They will create false but persuasive stories. They will try to stir up scandals and will try to put up street theatre stunts, all to be barked up loudly far and wide by their media wolf-packs. They will throw javelins – whether rhetorical or real. They will drive out those they promoted but cannot compromise, capture and control. They will hunt them down after they have fled, driving them into exile. They will find every excuse to undermine and discredit expertise that is not under their tainted control. Lastly, it may take devastating failure, defeat and a long, confused leadership struggle before a David generation can come into its own. All of which seems all too sadly familiar.

So, we need to learn how to tell the difference between the Saul Generation trying to capture the future and an emerging David generation. The track record that shows Cocobeh-taint is a main clue. Character shown by diligent stewardship is a key test, as he who is untrustworthy with what is little will also be untrustworthy with what is much. Jealousy and dirty favouritism games will also speak. So will a track record of tainted projects. As will bad attitude towards truth, fairness, the right, the just. All across our region, it is time to move beyond the tainted culture of a dirty small pond.

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Contribution – Part 19/2017

 

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The Caribbean’s tainted leadership challenge

 BRADES, Montserrat, July 13, 2017 – One of the old-time Caribbean superstitions is the one about how “frogs” (especially toads) carry “Cocobeh,” leprosy. Many an innocent frog has paid with its life for this myth. And even that crime against ecology is part of how useful “the Cocobeh model” is for understanding and solving the region’s tainted leadership challenge. For our governments, for our businesses, for education, media, even churches, regional/international bodies and sports.

Too many leaders in our region and far beyond seem to be part of a toxic leadership culture of being big frogs in a dirty, tainted pond. They have Cocobeh, they spread it to the pond, they infect those who work with them, they even use it as a weapon, spitting it on those who challenge them. So, Cocobeh is too often deeply embedded in our regional leadership culture. That is, a toxic brew of corruption, deceit, selfish ambition, envy, greed and too often critical gaps in character and capability that predictably turn promising projects into damaging failures. Under these circumstances, just getting into or living near the pond is a hazard, much less having to deal with infected leadership at close hand day by day.

This is a tough challenge, but it is hardly a new one. Nor is it unique to our region. Indeed, our region’s most common history book has in it a key case study from 3,000 years ago. Namely, the transition between the Saul and the David generations. Saul started well, but became tainted and was troubled with depression, jealousy and more. David first came into his life as a young talented musician who could help calm his troubled spirit. Then, one day the lad killed a giant, stirring jealousy as Saul heard the people praise David for a feat he had been too demoralised and tainted to attempt. So, even though David was now his youngest General, son-in-law and even head of his bodyguard, in his fits of rage and envy Saul began to throw javelins at him and to scheme against him. Ironically, the Crown Prince (Jonathan) Saul wanted to promote became David’s close friend and mentor. Eventually, David had to flee for his life, ending up at the cave of Adullam. Then, we read how:

1 Sam 22:2 “ . . . everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul, gathered to [David]. And he became commander over them. And there were with him about four hundred men.”  [ESV]

This seemingly unpromising group became David’s mighty men and the core of the greatest generation of leadership in Israel’s history. They stood with him through thick and thin, even when he had to flee to exile among his enemies. And when Saul and his sons fell in battle at Mount Gilboa in the Jezreel region, they were joined by six hundred Philistines when David first returned to Hebron. (These, brought with them the key breakthrough technology of that day: Iron-making.)

The pattern is clear enough: in and around a tainted pond, genuine breakthrough leadership will always be under attack by javelin throwers and will be spied on and schemed against. Such alternative leaders therefore need to have support teams with a critical mass of capability, and opportunity to grow. Key technologies may be a big part of their secret sauce. They may need to go into exile to come into their full potential. They may need to bring in outside expertise. And, they will need to be purified from the taint of the dirty pond.

Big frogs will know this and they will fight dirty to protect their turf. They will try to lock out promising young people they don’t favour. The tempting offer of tainted funding or the tainted “compromise solution” or the dangerous “promotion” are obvious tricks. They will create false but persuasive stories. They will try to stir up scandals and will try to put up street theatre stunts, all to be barked up loudly far and wide by their media wolf-packs. They will throw javelins – whether rhetorical or real. They will drive out those they promoted but cannot compromise, capture and control. They will hunt them down after they have fled, driving them into exile. They will find every excuse to undermine and discredit expertise that is not under their tainted control. Lastly, it may take devastating failure, defeat and a long, confused leadership struggle before a David generation can come into its own. All of which seems all too sadly familiar.

So, we need to learn how to tell the difference between the Saul Generation trying to capture the future and an emerging David generation. The track record that shows Cocobeh-taint is a main clue. Character shown by diligent stewardship is a key test, as he who is untrustworthy with what is little will also be untrustworthy with what is much. Jealousy and dirty favouritism games will also speak. So will a track record of tainted projects. As will bad attitude towards truth, fairness, the right, the just. All across our region, it is time to move beyond the tainted culture of a dirty small pond.